3,400 local council PRs, the cost of Elveden and BBC email spying to find leakers: What Press Gazette knows because of FoI

Local councils employ at least 3,400 PRs, the Metropolitan Police has spent more than £30m on investigating journalists and the BBC spied on the emails of 37 members of staff over suspected leaks.

These are just a few of the stories Press Gazette has revealed as a result of the Freedom of Information Act.

As act comes under threat from a Government consultation, Press Gazette is urging other news organisations to highlight what they have found out using FoIs.

A petition has also been launched urging the minister in charge of FoI, Matthew Hancock, not to water down the act.

The call comes as part of the Hands Off FoI campaign, launched last week by the Society of Editors with backing from Press Gazette.

The Government has set up the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information, which is currently gathering information for a ten-year review of the act. 

It is widely feared that the commission is the precursor to a move by the Government to weaken FoI by adding new restrictions on the release of information, strengthening the ministerial veto and adding new fees, which the petition describes as a "tax on journalism".

The Birmingham Mail has launched its own campaign to save Freedom of Information and highlighted to readers stories that would not have emerged without the act. 

These include stories about: child deaths at Birmingham's social services department more than doubling in four years – despite council claims that there had been no increase; more than 60 per cent of shoplifting offences in Birmingham city centre not being recorded or investigated; and a police officer receiving nearly £8,000 compensation from his force after being bitten by fleas while at work.

Press Gazette is today doing the same and urging other publications to do likewise.

Using the FoI Act, Press Gazette has reported:

Local councils employ at least 3,400 comms staff, central government 1,500 and police forces 775

Cleveland Police has used RIPA to find journalistic sources

ACPO scuppered Press Gazette FoIs on RIPA to every police force in the country

The Metropolitan Police has spent more than £30m investigating journalists

37 BBC staff had their emails monitored in two years over leak suspicions

The head of the Civil Service thought Richard Caseby went "beyond what I would expect of a civil servant" in a Press Gazette blog criticising The Guardian

The BBC has an "astonishing" number of PRs

There has been a sharp rise in local council leak investigations.

Picture: Shutterstock

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